Review: Ghost the Musical @ New Wimbledon Theatre

By Emma Birkett

Ghost the musical is an ambitious screen adaption of the well-known 1990 Patrick Swayze film of the same name.

I’m sure that most people will be familiar with the plot: New York banker, Sam (played by Stewart Clarke), uncovers some unexplained money dealings at work. When he and artist girlfriend Molly (Rebecca Trehearn) are on their way home from an evening out, he is murdered.

Trapped on Earth as a ghost and discovering his best friend and fellow banker, Carl (David Roberts), had arranged his murder, Sam tries to get in touch with Molly and warn her of the danger through a ‘fake’ psychic called Oda Mae Brown (Wendy Mae Brown)

Hijinks ensue and justice is served. Basically it’s Shakespeare’s Hamlet, under a Hollywood spotlight.

In recent times we have seen a lot of films successfully make the transition to stage, The Bodyguard and Legally Blonde to name but a few.

Let’s start with the positives; the staging is complex and the actual technology used to bring the New York landscape to life is excellent. The decision to bathe the ‘ghosts’ in a pale blue light gave them an ethereal quality which worked extremely well.

There was a technologically great moment when Sam ‘morphs’ through a door for the first time as well which left the audience slightly agape.

What is not so great however is the content behind the dazzle.

It simply assumes that you know the source film’s plot, and therefore feels that it’s not necessary to properly explain itself.

It’s particularly jarring in terms of the overall flow of the show, if you sit there wondering ‘Hang on, how/when did that happen?’

True, most of the people who see this show would have seen the film, but it does not excuse the gaping plot holes.

The first occurs in the first 30mins or so, when Sam tries and fails to get out of the hospital, but then in the next scene he is suddenly in his and Molly’s apartment.

How did he get into the apartment in the first place? Moreover, how did he even manage to leave the hospital?

The next came in the second half where all the other ghosts are queuing up to use the psychic to communicate with their loved ones. How did they know she could do this? We have been following Sam around on his quest and he never mentioned her ability to any other ghost.

The show also seems to suffer from an overreliance on technology – just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you have to do it. Sometimes less is more.

The seemingly constant changes of scenery left you with a kind of visual whiplash, and the flashing LED background images, were, at times, unbelievably distracting.

I haven’t even mentioned the frequently occurring pop-style dancing-silhouettes yet. These bizarre leftovers from a James Bond credit sequence were, for some reason, used as a video backdrop for some of the more heartfelt musical numbers.

This was very odd, because, as a result the chorus dancers, although talented, were at times rendered completely unnecessary.

In terms of songs, they are pleasant and the leads do an admirable job with the material given to them.

Wendy Mae Brown, who played psychic Oda Mae Brown, was definitely the star of the show. She stole all the scenes she was in and her musical numbers were great.

Stewart Clarke and David Roberts did a good job and performed well throughout.

Ghost the musical is a treat for all those who are die-hard fans of the film, purveyors of theatre technology and for those interested in complex staging.

Ghost plays at the New Wimbledon Theatre from May 3rd 2013 to May 11th 2013.

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